On Tuesday this week it finally happened: after more than one year of negotiations, the European Parliament voted with a large majority in favour of the report on circular economy by rapporteur Simona Bonafè, which provides for an ambitious path for European waste management until 2030. This report for example prescribes an increase of the recycling quota of household waste to 70 % and the reduction of food waste by half, compared to 2014.
In autumn 2015, the EU Commission presented the Circular Economy Package, which has been intensively discussed in the Committees and the Parliament since then. The report on the Circular Economy Package, that has now been adopted by the EU Parliament with a clear majority, refers to two of the three components of waste reduction – reduction of accruing waste and recycling. Its intention is to increase the recycling quota for household waste by 70 % by 2030. Currently 44 % of household waste is recycled or composted; in 2004 this was only the case for 31 %. Apart from that, recycling of packaging materials such as paper, plastic, metal and glass should be increased to 80 %.
Another concern of MEPs is to reduce food waste in the EU. Based on the initial value for 2014, the aim is to half the quantity of food wasted by 2030. Currently, 89 million tons of food in the EU is not consumed, which is equivalent to a whopping of 18 kg per person!
MEPs from several political groups emphasised the advantages, which come along with fulfilling these targets. A higher recycling quota does not only reduce the requirement for raw materials, it also generates new value-added chains, which create jobs, promote research and investments and make the European economy more competitive overall.
It was easier for Austria than for other states to reach these targets, because as far as waste management is concerned, Austria is one of the model pupils. At 58 %, the Austria's current recycling quota ranks in third position after Germany and Slovenia. However, the situation is completely different with regard to Slovakia and Malta, where just 12 % of valuable materials is recycled. Consequently, with regard to the circular economy, the Commission gave Austria a positive reference within the scope of the country reports.
However, besides these quantitative targets on the reduction of waste, what is also needed is a stronger focus on the lifespan and the period of use of products, which is referred to as reuse, the third component of waste reduction. Related to this, the Chamber of Labour has investigated the usage pattern and replacement reasons by consumers concerning durable goods. In particular Smart Phones are on average replaced within less than three years and thereby more frequently than many garments. Advertising practices and incentives offered by providers tempt consumers to replace durable goods more frequently than necessary. Measures are required, which are not only geared towards the lifespan of products but also towards their useful life. This also includes educational work and consciousness raising to increase the awareness of consumers.